The Rev. Jennifer L. Adams- May 31, 2015
Trinity Sunday: Isaiah 6:1-8, John 3:1-17
Today on the liturgical, church calendar, we’re celebrating Trinity Sunday. You probably picked that up in the opening collect: “ You have given to us your servants grace,” we prayed, “to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty, to worship the Unity.” A mouthful for sure. A heart-full and mind-full too for that matter. This is the day on which we celebrate the mystery and power of God as: Father, Son and Holy Spirit; Mother, Child, Sophia; Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier; Transcendent, Incarnate, Holy Breath of God. And I could go on and on; there are many other traditional and not-so-traditional ways in which we can talk about what the famous hymn (which we will sing in a few minutes) calls, “the three in one and one in three.”
Now this day seems to bring fear in to the heart of many preachers, and perhaps to congregations also as they wonder how or, perhaps, how long the preacher is going to talk about God today. My Facebook feed and a couple of the websites and some of blogs I read this week were revealing preachers’ fears right up through early this morning. “How can we possibly put words on this?” they wondered. “Who am I to talk in terms of that which is most holy?” “What resources are you using to preach on this the HARDEST SUNDAY of the year?” one person asked.
We also heard some concern in the reading this morning from the prophet Isaiah who was, at the beginning of that passage, in a place of pure awe and humility as he considered the most holy, “Woe for me, for I am lost!” he said as he gained his own glimpses of God. “For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips and here I am, me of all people bearing witness to the King (capital K), the Lord of hosts!”
We even heard a related fear in the story from John’s gospel, which told us the story of Nicodemus who came to talk to Jesus under the cover of darkness. Nicodemus came to Jesus by night because his experience and understanding of God was changing, and Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a religious leader, was afraid to share those questions, to have those conversations in the light of day. He had too much to risk to show up at this point in the story in broad daylight.
And so one of the things I learned this week is that perhaps I’m a little foolish. There are things that scare me for sure. Trust me I have a list that gets updated regularly and as hard as I work, I have yet to clear it. But talking about God just isn’t on there. I actually love doing this! And I want us to love this too.
I don’t want talking about God or talking to God to be on any of our lists of what scares us. There’s enough out there to be afraid of – this shouldn’t be one of those things. Our thoughts, our prayers, our new insights, even our foundation-shaking questions and doubts can live among us right here in the light. We don’t have to be afraid of any of this.
Because if we do anything thing in this place on a regular, daily, basis that is our “normal”, it should be sharing our thoughts and experiences of holiness. That’s what makes this place a little different, right? Regardless of the specifics of the particular moment, whenever we come together, we come together for the sake of, in the name of, for the purpose of our relationship with God, and to sort out and act on what all of that means. God-talk is the most normal thing we do here, which doesn’t mean it isn’t holy. It just means that it’s what we do.
Now maybe one of the important things to know is that our engaging in this ongoing God-conversation, which means our doing theology together, is not about getting it right which I think is where some of the fear comes in. If it were about getting it right, meaning there would be divine retribution – lighting strikes, destruction etc. – if we got it wrong, there wouldn’t be any people left. I’m convinced that the pure ongoing existence of humanity is a sign that doing theology is not about perfection.
Perfection on all things God is just not a part of our history of either society or church, nor is it our goal. The holiness that is God is in large part mystery and the best we can do is allow ourselves to be taken in to it, to be held by it, created and re-created by IT, healed, fed, nurtured, turned around, forgiven, loved, sometimes even resurrected by this mystery – doing our best along the way with whatever words we can find, whatever song or prayer or doctrine or art we can find to talk about and share those dimensions of our lives.
Now the other important thing to remember in this God conversation of which we’re all part, is that the sources for helping us in this work are endless. We’re chalk full of them in this place – take the Bible for starters. “In the Beginning God created” is how it opens. “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son,” we heard today from John. And last week, “The Spirit came among them filled with grace and truth.” Creator. Redeemer. Sanctifier laid out quite clearly (and not so clearly at times but present) in the stories and letters and gospels within Scripture which is source number one. Then there’s The Book of Common Prayer, the Episcopal/Anglican source that’s right here in our pews and whose contents are printed in our bulletins. Hymns and ancient prayers and stories and psalms, all right here at our fingertips at Grace, in our memories, in our hearts, on our lips. Sources galore!
But even more than that, there’s also all of us, sources one and all, to help us with this conversation, the theology we do as God’s people:
One of the wonderful things about Grace is that I can sit with seminary faculty who have degrees in Scripture and theology and I can sit with three years olds who haven’t been to school yet and with each of those groups, in each of those conversations I/we we can learn something about the wonder and power of God. One of the most profoundly theological observations of the year came from a five year old who after hearing the story on Good Friday asked me, “Why do we call this good?” And he meant it. Church itself is an intergenerational theological endeavor.
I (you too) can sit in the presence of someone who is dying or in the presence of someone who has just been born. And at any given moment those two what we would call ‘extremes,’ thinking linearly, are present within the breadth that is Grace Church. In either of those circumstances, in either of those profound experiences there is an absolute and sometimes even palpable sense of a divine holiness greater than us all.
We can also stand in the streets and we have, outside of this place with those who are working for justice and peace, as those who are working for justice and peace and we can catch on to a dream that is still being given life and breath among us. We can catch that Spirit that blows where it will or maybe better, it can catch us, blowing us back into the kind of dream that allows the whole world to be made new, “born again” if you will.
So the sources that shape and re-shape and feed what one theologian famously referred to as “faith seeking understanding” are endless. We have nothing to fear.
Although I bet, even after all of that we think we do – have something to fear, that is. And so I want to circle back to the mention of that list, those lists of things that scare us just to make sure they aren’t left hanging. Because they shouldn’t be.
Now I’m not going to lay out my list this morning, nor am I going to ask you to but I’d place bets on some overlaps, at least in terms of themes. Each our lists probably contain things that have to do with unknowns, or loss, or darknesses of the literal and/or metaphoric sort.
The good news on Trinity Sunday, and every Sunday really is that that God is bigger than all of it, whatever it is. Always. And God is present in all of it, whatever it is. Always. And God is blowing like the Spirit does through it, whatever it is in ways that surpass our understanding, shaping, reshaping and making new. Always. And so we pray and we sing and we talk and we hope and we love and we hope and we dream.
“Who will go, forward from here?” God asked the prophet Isaiah.
Send us, God. Send us.